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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index W > August Weismann Quotes

Thumbnail of August Weismann (source)
August Weismann
(17 Jan 1834 - 5 Nov 1914)

German biologist.


Science Quotes by August Weismann (6 quotes)

At the end of the book [Zoonomia] he sums up his [Erasmus Darwin] views in the following sentences: “The world has been evolved, not created: it has arisen little by little from a small beginning, and has increased through the activity of the elemental forces embodied in itself, and so has rather grown than come into being at an almighty word.” “What a sublime idea of the infinite might of the great Architect, the Cause of all causes, the Father of all fathers, the Ens Entium! For if we would compare the Infinite, it would surely require a greater Infinite to cause the causes of effects than to produce the effects themselves.”
[This is a restatement, not a verbatim quote of the original words of Erasmus Darwin, who attributed the idea he summarized to David Hume.]
— August Weismann
In August Weismann, John Arthur Thomson (trans.), Margaret R. Thomson (trans.) The Evolution Theory (1904), Vol. 1, 17-18. The verbatim form of the quote from Zoonomia, in context, can be seen on the webpage here for Erasmus Darwin. Later authors have quoted from Weismann's translated book, and given the reworded passage as a direct quote by Erasmus Darwin. Webmaster has found a verbatim form in Zoonomia (1794), but has been unable to find the wording used by Weismann in any primary source by Erasmus Darwin. The rewording is perhaps due to the translation of the quote into German for Weismann's original book, Vortrδge όber Descendenztheorie (1902) followed by another translation for the English edition.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Almighty (8)  |  Architect (15)  |  Beginning (114)  |  Cause (231)  |  Comparison (53)  |  Creation (211)  |  Erasmus Darwin (39)  |  Effect (133)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Father (44)  |  Force (194)  |  Growth (111)  |  Idea (440)  |  Increase (107)  |  Infinity (59)  |  Sublime (18)

Every individual alive today, even the very highest, is to be derived in an unbroken line from the first and lowest forms.
— August Weismann
In Heredity (1892), Vol. 1, 161. As cited in James C. Fernald Scientific Side-lights: Illustrating Thousands of Topics by Selections from Standard Works of the Masters of Science Throughout the World (1903), 394.
Science quotes on:  |  Alive (38)  |  Derive (18)  |  First (174)  |  Form (210)  |  Highest (16)  |  Individual (177)  |  Line (44)  |  Lowest (7)  |  Unbroken (9)

The Continuity of the Germ-plasm.
— August Weismann
The Continuity of the Germ-plasm as the Foundations of a Theory of Heredity (1885). This was an early attempt to explain heredity, with the proposal of germ-plasm hereditary material present in eggs and sperm, that is passed from generation to generation. The subject quote is from the title of his first publication on this idea.
Science quotes on:  |  Continuity (23)  |  DNA (67)  |  Germ-Plasm (2)

The development of the nucleoplasm during ontogeny may be to some extent compared to an army composed of corps, which are made up of divisions, and these of brigades, and so on. The whole army may be taken to represent the nucleoplasm of the germ-cell: the earliest cell-division … may be represented by the separation of the two corps, similarly formed but with different duties: and the following cell­divisions by the successive detachment of divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, companies, etc.; and as the groups become simpler so does their sphere of action become limited.
— August Weismann
In 'The Continuity of the Germ-plasm as the Foundation of a Theory of Heredity' (1885), Essays upon Heredity and Kindred Biological Problems (1891), Vol. 1, 195.
Science quotes on:  |  Action (151)  |  Army (22)  |  Battalion (2)  |  Become (100)  |  Brigade (3)  |  Cell Division (4)  |  Company (28)  |  Comparison (53)  |  Corps (2)  |  Detachment (3)  |  Development (228)  |  Difference (208)  |  Duty (51)  |  Formation (54)  |  Germ Cell (2)  |  Nucleoplasm (2)  |  Ontogeny (6)  |  Regiment (2)  |  Representation (27)  |  Separation (32)  |  Similarly (3)  |  Simpler (5)  |  Successive (14)

The nature of heredity is based upon the transmission of nuclear substance with a specific molecular constitution. This substance is the specific nucleoplasm of the germ-cell, to which I have given the name of germ-plasm.
— August Weismann
Trans. Joseph S. Froton, Proteins, Enzymes, Genes: The Interplay of Chemistry and Biology (1999), 391.
Science quotes on:  |  Basis (60)  |  Constitution (26)  |  Germ Cell (2)  |  Germ-Plasm (2)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Molecule (125)  |  Nucleoplasm (2)  |  Nucleus (30)  |  Specific (30)  |  Substance (73)  |  Transmission (23)

We do not draw conclusions with our eyes, but with our reasoning powers, and if the whole of the rest of living nature proclaims with one accord from all sides the evolution of the world of organisms, we cannot assume that the process stopped short of Man. But it follows also that the factors which brought about the development of Man from his Simian ancestry must be the same as those which have brought about the whole of evolution.
— August Weismann
Translation of Weismann's work in German, by John Arthur Thomson and Margaret R. Thomson, The Evolution Theory (1904), Vol. 2, 393.
Science quotes on:  |  Accord (21)  |  Ancestry (4)  |  Assume (19)  |  Conclusion (120)  |  Development (228)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Eye (159)  |  Factor (34)  |  Nature (1029)  |  Organism (126)  |  Process (201)  |  Proclaim (12)  |  Reasoning (79)  |  Short (31)  |  Stop (56)  |  Whole (122)



Quotes by others about August Weismann (2)

If the Weismann idea triumphs, it will be in a sense a triumph of fatalism; for, according to it, while we may indefinitely improve the forces of our education and surroundings, and this civilizing nurture will improve the individuals of each generation, its actual effects will not be cumulative as regards the race itself, but only as regards the environment of the race; each new generation must start de novo, receiving no increment of the moral and intellectual advance made during the lifetime of its predecessors. It would follow that one deep, almost instinctive motive for a higher life would be removed if the race were only superficially benefited by its nurture, and the only possible channel of actual improvement were in the selection of the fittest chains of race plasma.
'The Present Problem of Heredity', The Atlantic Monthly (1891), 57, 363.
Science quotes on:  |  Advancement (36)  |  Benefit (54)  |  Chain (38)  |  Channel (17)  |  Civilization (155)  |  Cumulative (8)  |  Education (280)  |  Effect (133)  |  Environment (138)  |  Fit (31)  |  Generation (111)  |  Heredity (51)  |  Idea (440)  |  Improvement (67)  |  Increment (2)  |  Indefinitely (9)  |  Individual (177)  |  Instinct (50)  |  Intellect (157)  |  Life (917)  |  Lifetime (19)  |  Moral (100)  |  Motive (26)  |  Nurture (12)  |  Plasma (7)  |  Possibility (96)  |  Predecessor (18)  |  Race (76)  |  Removal (10)  |  Selection (27)  |  Superficial (7)  |  Surrounding (11)  |  Triumph (33)

The late Mr. David Hume, in his posthumous works, places the powers of generation much above those of our boasted reason; and adds, that reason can only make a machine, as a clock or a ship, but the power of generation makes the maker of the machine; … he concludes, that the world itself might have been generated, rather than created; that is, it might have been gradually produced from very small beginnings, increasing by the activity of its inherent principles, rather than by a sudden evolution of the whole by the Almighty fiat.—What a magnificent idea of the infinite power of THE GREAT ARCHITECT! THE CAUSE OF CAUSES! PARENT OF PARENTS! ENS ENTIUM!
For if we may compare infinities, it would seem to require a greater infinity of power to cause the causes of effects, than to cause the effects themselves.
'Generation', Zoonomia (1794), Vol. 1, 509. Note that this passage was restated in a 1904 translation of a book by August Weismann. That rewording was given in quotation marks and attributed to Erasumus Darwin without reference to David Hume. In the reworded form, it is seen in a number of later works as a direct quote made by Erasmus Darwin. For that restated form see the webpage for August Weismann. Webmaster has checked the quotation on this webpage in the original Zoonomia, and is the only verbatim form found so far.
Science quotes on:  |  Activity (97)  |  Almighty (8)  |  Beginning (114)  |  Boast (12)  |  Cause (231)  |  Clock (26)  |  Comparison (53)  |  Creation (211)  |  Effect (133)  |  Evolution (482)  |  Fiat (5)  |  Generation (111)  |  Gradually (13)  |  David Hume (33)  |  Infinity (59)  |  Inherent (27)  |  Machine (133)  |  Maker (10)  |  Power (273)  |  Reason (330)  |  Ship (33)  |  Sudden (21)  |  Whole (122)


See also:
  • 17 Jan - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Weismann's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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